NOTE: This is a article that will be updated throughout the season.
Welcome to the first edition of the Cornerback Streaming Experiment. The Streaming Cornerback Experiment is a living document that will be updated throughout the season, and will detail my Cornerback plays in the 2021 IDP Invitational run by IDPguys.org.
Cornerbacks can be unpredictable, at least season to season as noted in the tweet below from Tom Kislingbury of Dynasty League Football.
The IDP Invitational uses 22 total starters and 8 bench spots, so bench allocation is important. In fact, there are less bench spots than unique positions (9) in this league. Only 1 Cornerback is required in the starting lineup (2 if used in the flex), so this is an ideal league to try streaming, as there are plentiful options on waivers.
The benefit of being able to stream the position is the draft capital freed up to spend on another position. For example, here are all the Cornerbacks taken during my draft.
The idea of streaming Cornerbacks is not new. Johnny The Greek wrote a weekly series last season detailing his start and sit recommendation at the position for IDP Guys. He described his process as follows:
We’re going to be looking at things like expected game script, opposing offensive tendencies, snap counts, role and historical production to inform our weekly decisions on what corners are an “ideal” streaming option. (From: http://www.idpguys.org/johny-the-greeks-cornerbacks-corner-week-sixteen-16/)
I will be generally following that method, but also adding some of my own ideas, which may evolve throughout the season. For example, I plotted team CB points allowed by pass attempts, interceptions, etc., and found that the strongest correlation was to pass attempts to Wide Receivers, as opposed to total attempts.
One issue with the chart above is that it is using team CB points allowed. It doesn’t adjust for the number of total Cornerback snaps being played against a team. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati among other ran a lot of 3WR sets last year. It would make sense that they also play against more nickle or dime than other teams, reducing the effect.
As this is a start 1 Cornerback league, we are aiming for streaming to cover at least the CB12 score, but ideally higher than CB6. Based on last year’s scoring, we are aiming for about 12.2 ppg for a top 12 finish and 15.2 ppg for a top 6 finish.
I want to note that past work I’ve done on rookie hit rates shows that the CB6 finish generally finishes around DB24. So if you can successfully stream the CB6 in a league, it’s potentially valuable even in leagues that start Defensive Backs as a group instead of Cornerback & Safety
Picks and Results
Joe Haden, PIT vs BUF – Based on ESPN’s projections from July 14, 2021, Buffalo was projected to have the 2nd most WR targets this season. While Buffalo is the favourite in this game (-6.5 per The Score app), they passed on 57% of plays when up 7 or more points (via sharpfootballstats.com).
Pittsburg is also a good match up for cornerbacks, and project to have a more favourable game script as the underdog, however Tre’Davious White and Taron Johnson were both drafted earlier in the draft, and I didn’t feel comfortable that Levi Wallace will play 100% of snaps.
Result – 12.5 points (3 solo tackles, 2 assists, 1 forced fumble). The matchup ended up being better than anticipated as Buffalo trailed late and attempted 51 passes. Haden made the best of only 4 targets. Cam Sutton ended up being the better play as he was targeted 7 times and had 19.5 points. Regardless, Haden’s 12.5 points was right around the expected CB12 season average.
Chris Harris Jr., LAC vs DAL – Dallas is expected to be leading the league in pass attempts in 2021, and attempted 58 passes (41 to WRs) in week 1. Dallas is a 3 point underdog (via The Score app). Both Dallas and Los Angeles were in the top 12 in offensive pace (via sharpfootballstats). Numberfire projects this game to be one of the fastest in week 2, and projects Dallas to have a 77% pass rate. Chris Harris played 98% of snaps in week 1 and – as far as I could tell – played primarily in the slot .
Saturday night revision: Michael Davis, LAC vs Dallas – same as above. Harris was declared out for this game. I lost having the player who is playing in slot, but I’d rather Davis, who just about played every snap last week. Asante Samuel Jr. played about 85% of snaps in week 1, but I feel less comfortable projecting his usage.
Result – 12 points (4 solo tackles, 2 assists). Davis played 100% of snaps, but was only targeted twice. Samuel got the interception, so in the end he was the better play.
Byron Murphy, ARI vs JAX – Through 2 weeks Murphy has been the only Cardinals CB to play near 100% of snaps in both games. Both Arizona and Jacksonville are near the top of the league in pace of play. Jacksonville is about a touchdown underdog, and are leading the league is pass rate so far. As a bonus, we get a rookie QB who hasn’t played well so far this year.
Result – 31.5 points (3 solo tackles, 1 assist, 2 passes defended, 2 interceptions, 1 touchdown) – So this obviously was a good result, but I think it’s noting that this wasn’t actually a good game to stream off of in the end. Jacksonville had 34 passing attempts, which is right around the league median through 3 weeks. Jacksonville had 29 rushing attempts in this game, including 6 from Trevor Lawrence), something that is happening a lot to Arizona this year.
As I’m updating this late in the week, I’ll note that Jacksonville only had 24 attempts on Thursday Night Football. It is looking like their 51 attempts in week 1 against Houston might be noise, and they aren’t going to be as pass happy as I thought after 2 weeks.
Vernon Hargreaves, HOU vs BUF – So I have going back to streaming against Buffalo this week, a team near the top of the league in pace and passing rate in all situations. Houston is a 15 point underdog here, so the hope is that Buffalo passes even while winning and/or Houston keeps this game closer than expected for a while.
I could have used Byron Murphy again against the Rams, who also pass at a high rate a run a lot of plays. I didn’t want to partly because I don’t want to re-use someone here in back-to-back weeks, and also because Arizona has been run on a lot… a lot more than you would think…
It is entirely possible that I’m putting too much weight into this, because the Rams are otherwise a good match-up for streaming the Arizona Cornerbacks.
Result – 2.5 points. Hahahaha this was a horrible pick. Hargreaves lost his starting spot and played only 14 snaps in the game
Charvarius Ward, KC vs BUF – Taking advantage of a game with two very pass heavy offenses, this pick is going back to playing against Buffalo (see week 1 & 4). Not much to say here. Buffalo one of the fastest and highest neutral-script passing teams. They re a slight underdog in this game.
Result – 0 points. Hughes played 32% of snaps this week, before going back to 80% the following week.
Anthony Averett, BAL vs LAC – I didn’t do a proper update before this game, but LAC passes a lot and plays fast. The betting line was also close so a decent script was expected.
Result – 16 points
Donte Jackson, CAR vs NYG – Some of my favourites are on bye (LAC, BUF). The giants actually play fairly fast. They throw a lot, because they don’t win a lot. I didn’t want to play a Lions (vs Rams) or Bears (vs TB) player because I don’t expect those games to stay close.
Result 12.5 points (YTD 87 points (12.4 ppg;
tied with Avonte Maddox for CB4 on the year (not accounting for bye weeks) <- That’s wrong. Not sure how I got mixed up there.
Taron Johnson, BUF vs MIA – both teams play quickly. Miami is expected to trail, and they’ve thrown a lot more with Tua back (47 pass attempts vs Jacksonville)
Result 12.5 points
Darius Slay, PHI vs LAC – 7.5 points
Jamel Dean – 11 points
Week 11 –
Xavian Howard – 12.5 points
Week 12 –
Fabian Moreau – ATL vs JAC. Jacksonville has given up a lot of points to CBs this year
Result – 7.5 points
Nevin Lawson (JAX vs LAR) – 17.5 points
Sean Murphy-Bunting (TB vs BUF) – 18.5 points
I’m finally doing this early enough in the week to write a proper write up.
Xavian Howard (MIA vs NYJ) – The Jets are a sneaky 4th in WR targets this year and 8th in point allowed to CB’s (via idpguru.com). The Jets are also about a 10 point underdog on the road, so it’s a good script for Howard.
Result – 7 points
Desmond King (HOU vs LAC) – At least the third time I picked a chargers opponent this season. Same story as the previous weeks
Result – 27.5 points – With Houston surprisingly winning this game, it led to a better script for King.
I was fortunate enough to make it through to the final week of the tournament, and got to select a full week of picks this year.
Byron Murphy (ARI vs DAL) – I’ve used Murphy once before. Since week 9, both Dallas and Arizona are top half of the league in pace, and Dallas is close to the league lead in team attempts and WR attempts.
Result – 20 points – 7 solo tackles and 1 pass defended is a nice result to end the year. Dallas attempted 38 passes in this game.
Total points scored – 228 (13.4 ppg), I beat the benchmark of 12.2 ppg which was projected to be a top 12 CB finish, but was below the 15.2 ppg benchmark for a top 6 finish.
Having said that, here are the top 12 Cornerbacks on the season, after week 17
It’s notable that the 13.4 ppg I achieved this season was beat by every player on the list. 13.4 ppg ends up around 14th or 15th at the position this year (varies because I’m sorting by total points). Of the top 12 players shown above, Moore, Ryan, Diggs, Lattimore and Terrell were drafted in my division, with the other 7 players undrafted.
Lastly, inspired by reading Adam Harstad’s Dynasty, in Theory: You’ll Never Stand in the Same Stream Twice (yes it is 6 years old now, yes, I read it for the first time 4 weeks ago, and also yes, it’s a better read than what you are currently reading so you can just stop and go read that), I compared the points I scored with the players I started vs their seasonal average. Here are the results:
Harstad looked at Quarterback and Team Defence Streaming and found that players did a bad job of picking matchups throughout the season. Here I scored a little more than 1.8 points per game higher for the players I started their combined season averages. So streaming Cornerback may be more viable than Quarterback or Team Defense, but this is also a sample size of 1 team, where Harstad looked at 42 teams.
So does streaming the Cornerback position work? I’m inclined to say that you can get pretty to your baseline starter production, in this case near CB12 production, without spending any draft capital. I’m not sure whether you can get a season of one of the elite players, but the challenge there is knowing exactly who those are and then you have to potentially spend the draft capital to get them (like a 14th round pick on Kenny Moore).
As the season went on I focused more on players with good matchups and had scored a bunch of points throughout the season, as opposed to just any corner getting full time snaps with a good matchup. I think that helped achieve better scores in the 2nd half of the year.
Find me on twitter @djkelltown. When I’m not talking about fantasy football, I’m probably talking about my NHL team (Winnipeg Jets) or CFL team (Winnipeg Blue Bombers)